Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka wins historic women’s 3000 gold at IAAF U20 Championships

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by LetsRun.com
July 11, 2018

For years, distance aficionados have seen the same thing happen so many times. A global women’s final begins and a couple of Japanese runners set off at an honest pace, gapping the field early before being swallowed up late.

Well today in the women’s 3000 final at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships, that familiar script had a surprising ending as no one caught Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka and she shockingly ended up winning gold in a personal best of 8:54.01 as Ethiopians Meselu Berhe and Tsige Gebreselema took second and third in 8:56.39 and 8:59.20 respectively. Japan’s Yuna Wada, who ran the first 2700 meters of the race with Tanaka, ended up foruth in 9:00.50.

The Race

The two Japanese entrants started honestly from the gun and as they approached 800 meters (2:25.00), they had already gapped the field and it looked like this:

The Japanese gapped the field early

The Japanese gapped the field early

Their lead continued to grow and with 3 laps remaining it was approximately 7 seconds (we timed it at 7.63 seconds with 1250m remaining). A lap later, the lead had hardly been reduced as it was still roughly six seconds (6.54 on our watch with 850m to go). Surely the Ethiopians would eat into the lead big-time on the penultimate lap, right?


At the bell (7:48.36), Tanaka led by 4.8 seconds and she was full of run. As she came off the penultimate turn, she turned on the jets and left her compatriot Wada in the dust. The Ethiopians were coming but with 200 left (8:21.33), Tanaka still led by 3.8 seconds and she’d end up winning by more than two seconds (2.38) at the finish line thanks to a final lap of 65.65 and final 200 of 32.68 to close off a final km of 2:50.82 (her first km was 3:00.55 and the second was 3:02.64).


11796Nozomi TANAKAJPNJPN8:54.01 PB
21652Meselu BERHEETHETH8:56.39 PB
41797Yuna WADAJPNJPN9:00.50 PB
51810Zenah Jemutai YEGOKENKEN9:00.76 PB
61528Amelia MAZZA-DOWNIEAUSAUS9:09.19 PB
71630Carla GALLARDOESPESP9:10.07 PB
91638Cristina RUIZESPESP9:13.75 PB
101575Taryn O’NEILLCANCAN9:15.03 PB
111523Lara CROUCHAUSAUS9:16.28 PB
121959Cailie LOGUEUSAUSA9:16.78 PB
131710Josina PAPENFUSGERGER9:18.39 PB
141973Amanda VESTRIUSAUSA9:21.95 PB
151841Katrina ROBINSONNZLNZL9:22.80
161576Cameron ORMONDCANCAN9:27.51
171668Astrid SNÄLLFINFIN9:32.25 PB
181824Lamiae HIMIMARMAR9:41.32
1805Mercy Chepkorir KIRAREIKENKENDNS



Quick Take: What a great win for Tanaka

 Nozomi Tanaka , your champion

Nozomi Tanaka, your champion

Given the fact she led by nearly 5 seconds at the bell and how fast she closed, it would have taken a 60.7 last lap for the Ethiopians to beat her and there is no way that was going to happen. For comparison’s sake,when Mary Cain won in 8:58.09 in 2014, she closed in just under 63 seconds after the leaders hit 2k in 6:07. Today, Berhu ran 8:56.39 with a 63.3 final lap after hitting 2k in roughly 6:10 so her close was very similar to Cain’s in 2014 but she just had too much ground to make up.

Tanaka’s gold was historic as it was the first for Japan in the event. Additionally, she is just the second non-African to have won the women’s 3000 at the U20 championships in the last 20 years (Cain in 2014 was the other) and the first Asian winner since China’s Yin Li won in 1998.

We didn’t see the entire race on TV but are pretty confident that Tanaka led the entire final 2100 meters.

Talk about this crazy race on our world famous messageboard: MB: Official 2018 World U20s (AKA World Jrs) Thread.

Post-Race interview with Tanaka

In the interview above, Tanaka admitted she was surprised she won by very happy. Additionally, she told the IAAF, “The team strategy was to get out hard and dominate as much as possible,. We were really surprised the Ethiopians started so slow so we knew we had a good chance.”